Born-again Burberry - Life and Style - The Independent

Born-again Burberry

Modelled by Stella Tennant, worn by Jarvis and Noel and shot for the pages of Vogue and Frank, that check is suddenly, unexpectedly hip. James Sherwood reports on the Regent Street revivalists

THE FASHION industry always had a sneaking suspicion that US designers like Ralph Lauren pillaged classic British style and sold it back to us with a polo pony logo and a price hike. This season, the Empire strikes back. In July US Vogue, Shalom Harlow modeled a neat blue tank top. It wasn't designed by usual suspects Marc Jacobs, Calvin Klein or Isaac Mizrahi. It was by Burberrys, and was the third time in as many months this spinster of the British high street has been in Vogue. The shock is equal to Dame Barbara Cartland having her tongue pierced.

Street fashion has a nasty habit of trawling the bargain basement of naff labels to find candidates ripe for ironic revivals. Think of the faun polyester Farah pants or tacky Hawaiian shirts. Burberrys, with fellow Regent Street old dears Aquascutum, Scotch House and Austin Reed, don't fit this postmodern pattern. You will see Alexander McQueen, Jarvis Cocker and the Gallagher brothers wearing the Burberrys signature check with no irony intended.

To understand the monumental reversal of fortune for Burberrys, you have to cast your mind back only a matter of years. Burberrys was a middle- aged, middle-market fashion blind spot on the high street. Camilla Parker Bowles would shop there. Bjork would not. Reviving a label once the new generation has decided it's not cool is like trying to resuscitate a corpse. No amount of retail spin doctoring can entice young people if the product is terminally frumpy. But fashion, particularly London street style, is quixotic.

"A person like me, who shops at Helmut Lang and Gucci, is now shopping at Burberrys," says Frank fashion and beauty director Kim Stringer. "The autumn/winter collection was a watershed for all the Regent Street stores. They are trading on their names and reputations for luxury while acting very quickly to modernise and clean up their collections. It is out with the gold buttons and the heavy fabrics. Instead of being a three-quarter Burberry trench, it now sits bang on the knee and the pleated skirt is the right length."

"Burberrys is iconic," says chief executive Rose Marie Bravo. "Katharine Hepburn wore Burberrys in the Forties and fashion has shifted back to the pared-down, severe Hepburn style in the Nineties. A lot of those big US designers like Marc Jacobs and Michael Kors are inspired by what I call the classic British style. The new generation come to Burberrys because they are discovering the authentics: going back to the original source."

A retail hot-shot like Bravo, formerly the President of Saks 5th Avenue, wouldn't be in a thousand-mile radius of Burberrys unless she knew it was hitting the consumer G-spot. "Rose Marie Bravo has put a brilliant spin on Burberrys. Her target is to turn the label around in five years and make it a global brand. She's taken all the elements Burberrys is famous for and modernised," says Stringer. "Scotch House was always Burberrys' little sister. It was always funkier. But now you see the kilts getting shorter, the knits getting more fitted. I went to see Austin Reed's and Aquascutum's autumn/winter collections and they are getting the key pieces right."

In the cynical Nineties, we are increasingly disenchanted with labels. Anyone can buy a Jil Sander charcoal pantsuit and look fabulous. The mood now is to be smarter with the mix: putting a vintage beaded camisole top with a Joseph pencil skirt, thrift shop flip-flops and a Burberrys headscarf. We will pay for luxury, be that a pashmina scarf or a bright red cashmere tank. What we won't do is pay double simply because it is cashmere by Calvin. As Bravo says, people are going back to the authentics.

"Labels have a life of their own," says Scotch House MD Sally Ireland. "They suffer if they don't get the attention they deserve. So what we're seeing is a return to luxury in high fashion and a new generation discovering Scotch House. There is something so easy and sexy about a cashmere twin- set or a pretty cream satin knife-pleated skirt. We've always designed these silhouettes but I think we've responded to high fashion by producing the twin sets in pastels and hot pinks as well as the classic neutrals. By tweaking the design subtly, we've made Scotch House right for the Nineties."

A major model, like face of Givenchy Honor Fraser, wouldn't model for Scotch House ad campaigns unless the label was sharp. A photographer like Mario Testino wouldn't shoot Stella Tennant for Burberrys if it was anything less than A-list and endorsed by US Vogue. Suzy Bick will be the face of Austin Reed for autumn/winter 98. Again, her association with the label indicates that Austin Reed will be the next to join the British hip list. The autumn collection for Austin Reed features Hepburn-style grey flannel slouch pants and tuxedo-cut jackets, which indicate that Austin Reed are getting there.

Kids instinctively avoid stores their parents shop in unless they've been given the green light by street style dictators like The Verve's Richard Ashcroft, the Gallagher boys or the Wu-Tang Clan. When Ashcroft wore a pair of Clarks Wallabee boots on the cover of Urban Hymns, he rubber- stamped "Cool" on Clarks. The over-twenties will remember the horror of Mum dragging you into Clarks for a pair of school shoes and the consequent humiliation in the playground when you wore those shapeless, rubber-soled slabs. Now kids would swap their Nikes for a pair of cult Clarks shoes. Hush Puppies also traumatised a generation of unwilling wearers. This year they featured in a six-page Wallpaper spread and were worn with pride by John Travolta, David Schwimmer and Tim Roth. "The last time Hush Puppies were a cult was the Sixties," says marketing director Tracy Rist. "Then, in 1995, US designer John Bartlett commissioned a classic Hush Puppy slip- on dyed to match his collection in lemon, lime and lavender. The international fashion press went into a frenzy when they realised these colours weren't going into production." Puppy lovers Kula Shaker, Naomi Campbell, Madonna, George Clooney and Jennifer Aniston naturally gave the label a little kudos.

One word of warning. Don't overdo it with the Burberry check or you'll end up looking like a scary heritage tourist with more money than sense.

Life and Style
tech
Arts and Entertainment
Robin Thicke's video for 'Blurred Lines' has been criticised for condoning rape
music
News
Paper trail: the wedding photograph found in the rubble after 9/11 – it took Elizabeth Keefe 13 years to find the people in it
newsWho are the people in this photo? It took Elizabeth Stringer Keefe 13 years to find out
Voices
Yes supporters gather outside the Usher Hall, which is hosting a Night for Scotland in Edinburgh
voicesBen Judah: Is there a third option for England and Scotland that keeps everyone happy?
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Life and Style
ebooksA superb mix of recipes serving up the freshest of local produce in a delicious range of styles
Life and Style
ebooksFrom the lifespan of a slug to the distance to the Sun: answers to 500 questions from readers
Arts and Entertainment
Matt Damon as Jason Bourne in The Bourne Ultimatum (2007)
filmMatt Damon in talks to return
News
peopleThe report and photo dedicated to the actress’s decolletage has, unsurprisingly, provoked anger
Arts and Entertainment
Evil eye: Douglas Adams in 'mad genius' pose
booksNew biography sheds light on comic genius of Douglas Adams
Life and Style
tech... and together they're worth at least £100 million
Arts and Entertainment
While many films were released, few managed to match the success of James Bond blockbuster 'Skyfall'
filmsDaniel Craig is believed to be donning skies as 007 for the first time
Arts and Entertainment
Fringe show: 'Cilla', with Sheridan Smith in the title role and Aneurin Barnard as her future husband Bobby Willis
tvEllen E Jones on ITV's 'Cilla'
Life and Style
Bono and Apple CEO Tim Cook announced U2's surprise new album at the iPhone 6 launch
tech(but you can't escape: Bono is always on your iPhone)
Sport
Tim Wiese
sport
Life and Style
Kim Kardashian drawn backlash over her sexy swimsuit selfie, called 'disgusting' and 'nasty'
fashionCritics say magazine only pays attention to fashion trends among rich, white women
Arts and Entertainment
TVShows like Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D are little more than marketing tools
Arts and Entertainment
Hit the roof: hot-tub cinema east London
architectureFrom pools to football pitches, rooftop living is looking up
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

ES Rentals

    iJobs Job Widget
    iJobs General

    Programme Test Manager

    £400 Per Day: Clearwater People Solutions Ltd: Our client are currently seekin...

    IT Network Manager - Shepherd's Bush, London

    £28000 - £30000 per annum: Ashdown Group: IT Network Manager - Shepherd's Bush...

    Secondary supply teachers needed in Peterborough

    £21000 - £35000 per annum: Randstad Education Cambridge: Secondary supply teac...

    Modern Foreign Languages Teacher

    £100 - £110 per day: Randstad Education Group: Full time German Supply Teacher...

    Day In a Page

    Mystery of the Ground Zero wedding photo

    A shot in the dark

    Mystery of the wedding photo from Ground Zero
    His life, the universe and everything

    His life, the universe and everything

    New biography sheds light on comic genius of Douglas Adams
    Save us from small screen superheroes

    Save us from small screen superheroes

    Shows like Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D are little more than marketing tools
    Reach for the skies

    Reach for the skies

    From pools to football pitches, rooftop living is looking up
    These are the 12 best hotel spas in the UK

    12 best hotel spas in the UK

    Some hotels go all out on facilities; others stand out for the sheer quality of treatments
    These Iranian-controlled Shia militias used to specialise in killing American soldiers. Now they are fighting Isis, backed up by US airstrikes

    Widespread fear of Isis is producing strange bedfellows

    Iranian-controlled Shia militias that used to kill American soldiers are now fighting Isis, helped by US airstrikes
    Topshop goes part Athena poster, part last spring Prada

    Topshop goes part Athena poster, part last spring Prada

    Shoppers don't come to Topshop for the unique
    How to make a Lego masterpiece

    How to make a Lego masterpiece

    Toy breaks out of the nursery and heads for the gallery
    Meet the ‘Endies’ – city dwellers who are too poor to have fun

    Meet the ‘Endies’ – city dwellers who are too poor to have fun

    Urbanites are cursed with an acronym pointing to Employed but No Disposable Income or Savings
    Paisley’s decision to make peace with IRA enemies might remind the Arabs of Sadat

    Ian Paisley’s decision to make peace with his IRA enemies

    His Save Ulster from Sodomy campaign would surely have been supported by many a Sunni imam
    'She was a singer, a superstar, an addict, but to me, her mother, she is simply Amy'

    'She was a singer, a superstar, an addict, but to me, her mother, she is simply Amy'

    Exclusive extract from Janis Winehouse's poignant new memoir
    Is this the role to win Cumberbatch an Oscar?

    Is this the role to win Cumberbatch an Oscar?

    The Imitation Game, film review
    England and Roy Hodgson take a joint step towards redemption in Basel

    England and Hodgson take a joint step towards redemption

    Welbeck double puts England on the road to Euro 2016
    Relatives fight over Vivian Maier’s rare photos

    Relatives fight over Vivian Maier’s rare photos

    Pictures removed from public view as courts decide ownership
    ‘Fashion has to be fun. It’s a big business, not a cure for cancer’

    ‘Fashion has to be fun. It’s a big business, not a cure for cancer’

    Donatella Versace at New York Fashion Week